ACLU: Aurora PD has disturbing pattern of officers accused of violating the rights of black people

AURORA, Colo. -- The American Civil Liberties Unions (ACLU) is speaking out about a trend of what it calls questionable police conduct involving people of color in Aurora.

"We have a very disturbing pattern of incidents in which Aurora police are accused of violating the constitutional rights of people of color," said Mark Silverstein ACLU's legal director.

The ACLU created a map (click link to view in full; map embedded below) that Silverstein said highlights six recent cases from March of 2015 to March of 2016 where officers have gone too far.

"I think that's an issue of concern to us and it ought to be an issue of grave concern to the Aurora Police Department," Silverstein said.

Silverstein said the civil liberties group has filed suit in two of the cases, and the Aurora Police Department has agreed to settle another case for $110,000.

In the case APD settled, the incident was caught on body camera video.

The footage from February 2016 shows officers using a Taser on Darsean Kelley -- an African-American man Silverstein claims was stopped for simply walking down the street near an area where police were called to investigate reports of man pulling a gun on a child.  

"Darsean Kelley is obeying the commands, he has hands up in the air, and he says 'I know my rights' and police tase him and he falls straight back and hits his head on the concrete," Silverstein explained.

Another incident happened in March 2016 at an Aurora Caribou Coffee. In that case, Silverstein said the ACLU has filed suit against the department claiming they racially profiled Omar Hassan.

"Two officers came over to him with their hands on their guns and they said he had to leave and he said 'why' and they said, 'Your kind of businesses is not welcomed here,'" Silverstein explained. "Completely unjustified exclusion from a place of business, and the owner of the coffee shop says we didn't ask him to leave. We want his business."

The Aurora Police Department provided the following statement to Denver7: 

The ACLU of Colorado, with reference to this map, has stated that there is a “disturbing string of incidents in which Aurora police have abused and violated the Constitutional rights of people of color.”

The Aurora Police Department disagrees with the ACLU’s characterization that there is a pattern of misconduct between the Aurora Police Department and people of color. 

The six cases, occurring during a one-year span from March 2015 and March 2016, represent a very small number of the thousands of contacts, criminal or otherwise, between the Department’s officers and people of color.  Further, the circumstances of each case are different, as are the reasons for the City’s response (settlement or defense) to the matter.  The Department works tirelessly to enhance community relations between officers and all citizens and visitors to Aurora.

The Aurora Police Department would like the public to know the following:

  • In 2015, Aurora Police officers handled 173,365 calls for service; in 2016, 218,845 calls were handled; and so far in 2017, 202,572 calls have been handled.  The overwhelming majority of these calls for service were resolved without any allegations of misconduct. 
  • The Aurora Police Department takes allegations of misconduct very seriously and has initiatives and processes in place to investigate such allegations thoroughly and discipline officers who violate policy.
  • The six cases on the map occurred between March 2015 and March 2016. 
    • Three of the cases on the map are pending litigation.  For the protection of all involved parties, the Aurora Police Department is unable to comment on any of these pending cases. 
    • Two of the cases on the map, Naeschylus Carter-Vinzant and Darsean Kelley, were settled by the City.  Refer to the City and the Department’s previous press releases regarding these settlements.  [hyperlink]
    • One of the cases on the map, Jeffrey Gale, was dismissed by the plaintiff during the discovery phase of the case.
  • The Aurora Police Department has implemented a multitude of mechanisms aimed at enhancing public transparency.  The Aurora Police Department utilizes groups comprised of community members such as the Aurora Key Community Response Team (AKCRT) and the Citizen Police Advisory Team (CPAT) to obtain valuable community feedback.
  • Since Chief Metz started with the Department in March 2015, the Department’s policy and procedures have undergone review and revision, especially with regards to use of force and internal affairs investigations.  Departmental policies recently became available online and can be found at: https://www.auroragov.org/residents/public_safety/police/police_directives_manual/[auroragov.org]
  • The Aurora Police Department has renewed its focus on training in de-escalation techniques and use of less lethal devices during entry level academies and annual in-service sessions.  To learn more about the implementation of efforts aimed at reaffirming a culture of Police accountability and to promote internal legitimacy, please click on the link below to view APD’s ‘Initiatives for Enhancing Community Relations.’ https://www.auroragov.org/UserFiles/Servers/Server_1881137/File/Residents/Public%20Safety/Police/Main/Enhancing%20Comm_Relations%20APD%20single%20pages.pdf[auroragov.org]
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